April 21, 2007

Pirelli vs. Parisa w.r.t.

Over a month ago, I got an email that first appeared to be spam. No email body outside of a signature from a case coordinator with the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) and an attachment referring to a domain dispute complaint. After some further research, I realized that the NAF existed, the complaint was real, and the dispute was over, a domain I purchased from last summer.

First, I'll share some background on the domain purchase. I was looking for a new domain for a personal website. Since all of parisa.{com, net, org} were either owned or parked, I thought I'd go with some variant of thepurple0yster, an AIM name I use on occasion. On August 20th of last year, I had the following conversation with Mike explaining the choice.
(15:45:54) Parisa: i wanted, but that is gone
(15:46:14) Parisa: i can get
(15:46:16) Parisa: but it's not as ideal
(15:46:26) Mike: thats pretty cool
(15:46:34) Mike: why is it less ideal?
(15:46:43) Parisa: eh.. p0 would have been cooler :)
(15:46:52) Parisa: p0 == purple0yster
(15:46:54) Mike: ohh
(15:47:20) Parisa: i dunno.. i just liked it
(15:47:26) Parisa: i guess p-zero is ok

I ended up buying the domain, but didn't immediately use it since I didn't have web hosting set up. It ended up laying dormant with the standard "This page has been parked free, courtesy of" index page until now because I bought some other domains in the meantime and didn't have an immediate need for this one. on 3.1.2007

Now, the first email I received wasn't even the complaint, but a notice that the complaint was incomplete. The Complainant, Pirelli & C.S.p.A. (their legal counsel), had specified two locations for mutual jurisdiction, but they were required to select only one. Their two proposed locations were Scottsdale, Arizona (the address of the registrar, and 100 CandyLand Ave. Peppermint Grove, ID 31338 (my own address from the WhoIs database for

I emailed both parties to try and find out what was going on. At that point, I didn't know what NAF was, who Pirelli was, or what domain was even in question. I logged into GoDaddy to check the personal profiles for my domains. By this time, they had frozen my account without any notice or indication on my admin web panel. I tried, countless times, to reach GoDaddy customer service by phone and email. Finally I reached customer service and they told me my account was frozen due to a domain dispute and they could offer no further information via phone.

There was little response from either NAF or Pirelli to my questions since the complaint hadn't been officially filed yet, but I discovered that Pirelli was an Italian company with a line of tires named PZERO and they were after my domain. Pirelli & C.S.p.A. filed for the PZERO trademark about a month before I purchased the domain and were granted it about two months later. They eventually filed their complaint specifying Peppermint Grove, ID, and I received the formal notice on March 5. The complaint turned out to be an extremely entertaining read, including the accusations that I was using the reputation and fame of Pirelli and the PZERO tire line in bad faith for my website of dubious qualities, that the damage suffered by Pirelli from my registering of the site was clear and the rights of Pirelli had been harmed, and that I was unfairly and opportunistically appropriating the goodwill associated with the PZERO trademark. Quite the cybersquatter I have become.

I should mention that I'd never heard of Pirelli prior to all of this. I simply registered the domain because I wanted to make a website. I took no action to sell it to Pirelli and made no profit from any of the advertised links that appeared on the index page (compliments GoDaddy). While I wasn't using the domain, I paid for it and was a bit insulted at the accusations of the complaint. It was all fairly ridiculous, but unfortunately real.

So, I researched the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) and filed a response to the best of my legally unskilled abilities. The basis of my response was that the current page at was just a default GoDaddy page (not an attempt to distract Pirelli customers), I never contacted Pirelli to sell the site, I had only non-commercial interest in the domain, and I have a history of web development that supports my intended use of the domain.

I received the decision last week that I had no legitimate rights or interest in the domain and it was to be transferred to Pirelli. Apparently holding the domain for half a year was enough to prove bad faith registration and use, despite claiming non-commercial intent.

My unprofessional opinion on this decision is that it's bull shit and a dangerous precendent against individuals purchasing Internet real estate. Applying for trademarks is an easy and cheap procedure for companies. Peruse through the USPTO database and more likely than not, someone has an existing trademark on any acronym or word you can think of. Pirelli already owns 23 variants of PZERO domains, so my ownership of didn't preclude them from exercising their trademark. Plus, .org gTLD is widely recognized as serving non-commercial sites. Most importantly though, I don't agree that my simple holding of the domain was proof of bad faith use when you consider everything involved in this situation. Even if I held it for years without putting up content, I paid for it, never posted defamatory material, and never attempted to sell it.

I have probably exhausted any legal action I can take (or free one at least) and in the end, am out one purchased domain. If anyone has any other legal advice for additional action, I'd love to hear it. In the meantime, I'll be doing my best to spread the word about this nonsense, won't be purchasing any Pirelli tires, and maybe will even try out to become a NoDaddy girl.

[Updated 05-03-07] I just got an email from a guy that seems to be going through a similar debacle against the great tire God. This time Pirelli has claimed infringement regarding the domain

[Updated 05-08-07] And in accordance to the latest related ruling, will be transferred to Pirelli. Strangely, when I hear the word zero, the first thing I think of is a number and not an Italian tire.


Nikita Borisov said...

(just read this blog entry)

Look on the bright side: you can register a Parisa Foo trademark and then get the parked Parisa domain transferred to you.

Asirap said...

Yeah, this whole ordeal really made me want to pursue domain squatting. Because if I actually tried, I could be way, way better at it.

BTW, your ears should have been ringing last week. Moxie Marlinspike gave a talk at Blackhat Europe about modern threats to privacy (re: Google) and one of the few glimmering hopes to save us all that he ended his talk with was the awesomeness that is OTR :D